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Subgenres of Western Movies

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Jana Bieler

on 15 January 2014

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Transcript of Subgenres of Western Movies

Famous Actors/Actresses

typical Spaghetti Western team:
Italian director, Italo-Spanish technical staff, cast of Italian, Spanish, German and American actors
-> sometimes a fading or rising Hollywood star like Clint Eastwood in three of Sergio Leone‘s films

the "spaghetti" Western
the "revisionist" Western
the "weird“ Western
the "science-fiction" or "space" Western
the "singing cowboy" Western

And then we also have…

Subgenres of Western Movies


The hanging tree
Stetsons and spurs
Saddles, lassos and colts
Bandannas and buckskins
Cattle and cattle drives
Saloon girls
Favored horse -> horse opera
Iconic elements

Westerns are set in a geographically western setting
-> “western”

The conquest of the wilderness

The subordination of nature


Cast: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
Plot : Having been sent to a remote outpost in the wilderness of the Dakota territory during the American Civil War, Lieutenant John Dunbar encounters the local Sioux tribe
He’s known as "Dances with Wolves" & quickly makes friends with the tribe
He discovers a white woman who was raised by the Indians & gradually earns the respect of these native people
When the army advances on the plains, John must make a decision considering the lives of the natives he now calls his people
Dances with the wolves (1990)

Hadleyville marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is about to retire from office & go on his honeymoon with his bride, Amy (Grace Kelly)
Then he gets informed that the Miller gang, whose leader Will had arrested, is due on the 12:00 train
Amy urges Will to leave town but this isn't his style
When he asks for deputies to fend off the Millers, nobody will stand by him
Meanwhile, the clocks tick off the minutes to High Noon -- the film is shot in “real time”
Utterly alone, Kane walks into the center of town, steeling himself for his showdown with the murderous Millers --> Bad VS. Good
4 Academy Awards & Best Song for the hit "Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darling“ sung by Tex Ritter

High Noon (1952)

darker, more cynical tone
favoring realism over romanticism
stronger roles for women
more-sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans & Mexicans
critical views of big business, the American government, masculine figures (incl. military, greater historical authenticity

Elements of Revisionist Western

Revisionist Western, Modern Western or Anti-Western
mid 1960s and 1970s
can be seen as a response to Classic Westerns

reinvented, redefined, ridiculed, and questioned the themes & elements of traditional classics!

Revisionist Western:
Questioning and rewriting the Western

Local lawmen or enforcement officers
Army officers
Territorial marshals
Skilled, fast-draw gunfighter
-> Western hero faces danger on his own

Monument Valley


Gun fights
Violence and human massacre
Train robberies
Bank robberies
Barroom brawls
Breathtaking settings and open landscapes

The simple goal of maintaining law and order
It is rooted in archetypal conflict:
- and farmer vs. industrialist
- good vs. bad
- virtue vs. evil
- white hat vs. black hat
- man vs. man
- new arrivals vs. Native Americans
- settlers vs. Indians
- humanity vs. nature
- civilization vs. wilderness or lawlessness
- social law and order vs. anarchy
- the individualist vs. the community
- the cultivated East vs. West


Isolated forts
Ranch houses
The isolated homestead
The saloon
The jail
The small-town main street
Native American sites or villages


The major defining genre of American film industry
A nostalgic eulogy
One of the oldest, most enduring and flexible genres
The popularity of westerns has waxed and waned
1930s to the 1960s: most prosperous era


starred opposite Clara Bow in „Children of Divorce“ (1927)

1952: as Will Kane in the movie
„High Noon“
he won the Academy Award for Best Actor!

* May 7, 1901, in Helena, Montana
† May 13, 1961
from silent film era to the early 1960s
played strong, manly, distinctly American roles
After College --> headed to Los Angeles to work as an illustrator
worked as a film extra
appearance in „The Winning of Barbara Worth“

Gary Cooper

war movies
romantic comedies
police dramas

John Ford

his film career spanned five decades!
Appearance in more than 175 films

Hollywood‘s biggest & most durable
box-office star

Roy Rogers

films of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers
Hollywood‘s creation of a new Western genre in 1934
a singing cowboy is in the center of attention

The Singing Cowboy Western

Over 600 European Westerns between 1960-1980

the "contemporary" Western (Hud, 1963)

the "comedy" Western (Cat Ballou, 1965, 
Blazing Saddles, 1974)

The epic Western (The Big Country, 1958)

the "noir" Western (Pursued, 1947)

1964: diagnosis of lung cancer
15 years later --> succumbing to the disease at the age of 72
supreme awards for his public work at the service of the USA

Body surfing accident cut short his promising athletic career
studio work to help pay his tuition

John Wayne as a tackle

born as Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, in 1907
When he was a boy
family moved West to California
Academic & athletic success at Glendale High
--> football scholarship at USC

Directed by Sergio Leone
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef
During the American Civil War, three men set off to find $200,000 in buried gold coins
Zuco (The Bad) & Blondie (The Good) have known each other for some time, having used the reward on Zuco's head as a way of earning money
A dying man tells them of a treasure in gold coins
Zuco knows the name of the cemetery; Blondie the name of the grave where the gold is buried
Third man: Angel Eyes (The Ugly)
The three ultimately meet in a showdown that takes place in the middle of a major battle between Confederate and Union forces
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Directed by Howard Hawks
Based on Chase's original story which was first serialized in The Saturday Evening Post as "Blazing Guns on the Chisholm Trail“
Fictional account of the first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail
Plot: The film is about a growing feud over the management of the drive between the Texas rancher who initiated it (John Wayne) and his adopted adult son (Montgomery Clift)
Red River was filmed in 1946 but not released until September 30, 1948
In June 2008, AFI listed Red River as the fifth-best film in the western genre

Red River (1948)

incorporating elements of Sci-Fi into a Western film
future technology is used to transport the characters on to the Wild West
lighter tone & less violence than traditional Western movies

Science-Fiction Western


Ennio Morricone

new European, larger-than-life visual style
harsher, more violent and rough depiction of frontier life
revenge-seeking bandits & bounty hunters
jarring music from Ennio Morricone
choreographed gunfights
wide-screen closeups

Spaghetti Western

Sergio Leone

also known as Italian Western
developed in the 1960s and 1970s
term used by critics

tended to be low-budget
often shot on location in a desert
protagonist with less noble motivations
<-> classic Cowboy hero

Spaghetti Western

the "post-apocalyptic" Western (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, 1981-2, The Postman, 1997)

the “meat pie” Western
(Kangaroo Kid, 1950,
Australia, 2008)

Joanne Dru

best known for the role of the red-haired saloon-keeper „Miss Kittty Russell“ on the television Western „Gunsmoke“ (1955-1974)

Amanda Blake

Joanne Dru

Amanda Blake

Amanda Blake & Joanne Dru

combines elements of the Western with another literary genre
usually horror, occult, or fantasy
among these: Western comics such as „Weird West Tales“, a comic series of the publishing house DC Comics (1971-1980)

Weird Western

starred in more than 27 major  movies including "Red River" alongside John Wayne.

Western Movies
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